MILWAUKEE — If a barbershop was the last place you thought you'd get your COVID-19 vaccine, think again.
Gee's Clippers teamed up with Hayat Pharmacy to administer COVID-19 vaccines in the community. On Saturday the Milwaukee barbershop helped about 50 people get their first dose of the vaccine. Three more vaccine clinics at Gee's are scheduled for April 3rd, 10th and 17th.
You can schedule an appointment here, but they're also accommodating walk-ins for those with limited computer access.
Gaulien "Gee" Smith, the owner of Gee's Clippers, said he's working to continue the legacy of barbershops being community hubs.
"Where good news was shared, where health was a topic, where politicians could speak to their constituents," Smith said. "I think we have a responsibility more than just to help the community look good."
For him, that includes making sure his neighbors are vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We need to do our job as a barbershop and do what we can to get this community back on a healthy track," he said.
Ryan Wroten went to Gee's on Saturday for a trim. He left halfway to being fully vaccinated.
"I just decided to do it today," Wroten said. "The chances of me making a doctor's appointment today was probably slim. But if it's here, if it's offered while I'm already at the barber shop, then you take advantage of it."
And Smith's efforts go beyond just providing a space to administer the vaccine. He's trying to build trust in the vaccine within the African American community too.
"I understand why so many people have mistrust with this vaccine... I mean think about back in the days when African Americans were used as guinea pigs with a lot of the vaccines," Smith said.
That mistrust stems from a long history of racism in medicine documented by the National Institutes of Health. And, according to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Undefeated, about 70% of African Americans say the health care system treats people unfairly based on race.
While Smith acknowledges that mistrust, he also hopes his barbershop can serve as a bridge. Especially when fighting a virus that has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
"We need to do our part to safeguard ourselves, our families and our neighbors from this deadly disease that has proven to wreck havoc definitely on the African American community."
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